Stacy Wall and Dennis Hopper had created a character for Nike football. The character could best described as a homeless, ex-NFL referee. You couldn’t use that character today, since the NFL is so righteous. During the pre-pro phase my producer, Billy Hayden, said that Dennis wanted a teleprompter. Billy got me at a bad moment. What does he need a teleprompter for, they’re only thirties (thirty second spots) and I’m shooting with the Aaton. The Aaton is an extremely small, compact 35 mm camera developed by Jean Luc Godard to be used in a spontaneous manner. It was my mainstay for many years. Anyway, a teleprompter wouldn’t fit on this camera (at that time) and would have defeated the purpose of using this particular camera. I was stupid. I should have gotten a teleprompter anyway but I was impetuous and Billy just let me hang myself.
The first spot went okay. The dialogue was simple and there were a number of cuts so there was no problem shooting the spot in the rather carefree manner I had chosen. The second spot was another matter. Dennis was to sing a song in a single take.
Where’s the teleprompter?
There is no teleprompter.
I asked for a teleprompter, where’s the teleprompter?
Like I said, there is none.
Dennis storms into his trailer.
Austin (my longtime assistant director), get some showcards and we’ll make some cuecards.
Dennis storms out of his trailer and says something like shove those cue cards…but maybe not. He gets in front of my hand held camera and nails the song. One take. Hysterical. He takes me aside and says, I can see why you didn’t want a teleprompter. Why didn’t you just tell me and I would have memorized the lines. Don’t leave me hanging.
I just listened, chastened.
We worked together for the next few years. I worked with William Burroughs a few years later. I had liked his book, JUNKY, and I asked whether he had ever written a screenplay. He said that he thought he and Dennis Hopper had worked on it in the seventies but he couldn’t remember. I asked Dennis about it. Dennis said he didn’t remember the seventies.